Children take the fort.
Photo by Phillip the Pilgrim
By Mary of Montevale
“It is a truth universally acknowledged that a young man in possession of a pump-action super soaker must be in want of a Water Battle.” – Jane of Austen (Ansteorra)
That young man and – as estimated – a couple of hundred like him were joined by an equal number of young women shortly after midday Thursday at the battlefield fort for well over an hour of what they all wanted.
Like any other battle at Pennsic, the Children’s Water Battle involves logistics, strategy, and tactics. Many of the logistics are handled by the activity’s two sponsoring groups, Shadowclans and Black Talon (both Mid) who set up the necessary equipment earlier in the day. Joining them this year in these preparations was Queen Julianna of the Midrealm who then remained to take part in the battle.
Lord Thurkill l’Armier (Mid) who has been involved since almost the first year of such water battles in A.S. 24 and who served as one of the major organizers of this year’s, explained that the bulk of the treasure bags given to all the young participants this year were produced by the members of Black Talon. The zip-lock bags contain items like candy, small toys, stickers, glow sticks, and so on. They are kept on the “other” side of the Fort where volunteers hand them out to the children after they have broken through the Fort’s defenses.
Large metal water troughs are positioned where the attacking forces will take up their positions. The water buffalo is fitted with a water balloon filling attachment. Parents contribute to the logistics as well by hauling up family ice wagons bearing lidded rubber tubs which have been filled with pre-loaded ammunition (water balloons and water pistols ranging from small to incredibly large). Uniforms among the troops are hardly standard. There are almost as many swim suits in evidence as lightweight, loose-fitting tunics made of washable fabrics.
The strategy of the battle is for the Fort to be defended by adults from the sponsoring groups and some invited guests. This year that included Queens Julianna (Mid) and Kallista (Æthelmearc). On the side of the attackers, the first wave will be the youngest and smallest children to whom parents and other bystanders call out encouragement and instructions. Marshals in tabards blazoned with crosssed super-soakers in bubble gum pink and neon green, work hard to bring the sometimes-uncertain youngest warriors forward into good attack positions as well as to keep the older children well back from the younger ones. A pair of horns bleat, and the first assault begins.
Water shoots from everywhere, not just from the first rank in the attack and from the defenders, since most of the “gun” weapons have a range of 20 to 30 feet. On Thursday it did not take very long for the front line to reach the gates, “force” them open, and rush through to the other size where their prizes of treasures bags waited. After a pause for reloading of weapons and a check by the marshals that all was in order, a second assault was launched. Seen in the front lines in this assault as well as the third one (it is obviously a resurrection battle), was Queen Brianna of Atlantia, giving as good as she got--and she did get soaked. From the rear lines on the attacking side, a group of adults and children working water balloon slingshots easily overshot the ramparts of the Fort and soaked both defenders and the already-victorious attackers on the uphill side.
It seems that even sweet-looking young girls understand the tactics to be employed with water pistols and super-soakers: just keep walking forward with an angelic smile on your face, continuously shooting streams of water at anybody in front of you. It should also be noted that a loosely formed double or triple line of armed ten year olds, when forced to wait five minutes to begin their own assault on the Fort, will find it impossible to avoid the temptation to let fly with a few random shots that hit their own allies or “accidentally” lob a water balloon in the direction of Mom or Dad.
One dad who had come prepared to defend himself with a buckler from his own rattan fighting wear discovered that while it worked pretty well against small water pistols, it was “only marginally effective” against the larger, multi-stream weapons. A mom found herself the object of a bit of subterfuge as her daughter looped around with the intent to soak her from the back-- if it hadn’t turned out that it is harder than that daughter thought to outsmart her mother.
Everyone gets wet--moms, dads, kids, grandparents, marshals, photographers, newspaper reporters. After all, that’s the point with a water battle on a hot, sunny afternoon. It’s so much fun that the best thing to do afterwards is to go get some ice cream.